Air quality campaigners protest Silvertown Tunnel

Campaigners have been protesting outside London’s City Hall today (20 June) against plans to press ahead with the Silvertown Tunnel project, a new road tunnel linking Greenwich to the north bank of the Thames, which they say will increase traffic and cause more air pollution.

Silvertown Tunnel protesters
Silvertown Tunnel protesters
Green World

Campaigners have been protesting outside London’s city hall against Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to construct the Silvertown Tunnel beneath the Thames at Greenwich, claiming it will aggravate the capital’s air pollution problems.

Activists including Green Party Co-leader Sian Berry, Green London Assembly Member Caroline Russell, and campaign groups Extinction Rebellion, Mums for Lungs and No Silvertown Tunnel, descended on the home of the London Assembly on Clean Air Day (20 June) to make clear their opposition to the new road tunnel set to connect the Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown, in East London.

The proposed tunnel, which is expected to see work begin in late 2019 or early 2020 with a slated completion date of 2025, will connect the A1020 Silvertown Way on the north of the Thames with the A102 Blackwall Tunnel Approach on the south side. Transport for London states that the project will alleviate traffic around the Blackwall Tunnel.

However, opposition to the tunnel has coalesced around claims that the new tunnel will only serve to exacerbate traffic problems in the area by attracting new cars, thereby fuelling London’s air pollution crisis.

"The Silvertown Tunnel has no place in a Climate Emergency," @CarolineRussell joins protestors outside city hall to say no to @SilvertownLDN, before heading inside to question the mayor 💪

— The Green Party (@TheGreenParty) June 20, 2019

The protests came on the same day as Khan announced that he would be implementing London’s biggest ever car-free day on 22 September in a bid to tackle the capital’s air pollution crisis, with 12.3 miles of inner city roads set to be closed down.

The government has been criticised for its approach to dealing with the UK’s air pollution issues, with Green Party Peer Jenny Jones slamming the government’s Clean Air Strategy for offering “slow-motion progress” on air pollution, stating that the UK was nine years behind meeting nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution limits.

Caroline Russell, who invited climate-striking schoolchildren from Thomas Tallis School, which is located near to the Silvertown project, into the London Assembly for Mayor’s Questions, lambasted Khan’s decision to press ahead with the tunnel, taking to Twitter to call it a “dinosaur tunnel” that has “no place in a Climate Emergency”.

The Mayor seems utterly determined to commit Londoners to a massive debt (for building this dinosaur tunnel at Silvertown) or a big fat cancellation fee if the next Mayor sees sense and cancels it.

— Caroline Russell (@CarolineRussell) June 20, 2019

The urgency of global action to combat climate change and mitigate its devastating effects has been front and centre of the news agenda since the publication of report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which warned in October 2018 that the world had until 2030 to limit global temperature rises to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels or face widespread famine, drought, floods and food insecurity.

A number of councils around the UK – notably Bristol and London – have since declared Climate Emergencies, committing to cutting net carbon emissions in their authorities to zero by 2030.

The UK Parliament declared a Climate Emergency on 1 May after the motion was approved without a vote, though this was not binding on the government, which has since committed to making UK net-carbon zero by 2050 – 20 years short of the timescale set by Climate Emergency campaigners.